Cam Newton wasn’t the only former Carolina Panther to land in New England this offseason.
Wide receiver Damiere Byrd, who spent four seasons in Carolina before suiting up for the Arizona Cardinals in 2019, was the Patriots’ first free-agent signing of the 2020 league year.
In his first conversation with New England reporters Wednesday, Byrd explained what he’ll bring to the Patriots’ offense.
“I like to be a consistent player,” the 27-year-old said after participating in the Patriots’ first practice of training camp. “Somebody who can make big plays — and not only make big plays, but make the routine and consistent plays. Obviously, I’m a smaller guy, so I won’t do too many jump balls, but I’m a player that’ll do whatever he has to do for the team regardless.”
Listed at 5-foot-9, 180 pounds, the diminutive Byrd’s best asset is his speed — a trait New England’s receiving corps lacked last season. He ran a 4.28-second 40-yard dash, 6.6-second three-cone drill and 4.03-second short shuttle at his South Carolina pro day in 2015.
Those wheels didn’t translate into significant offensive production in Carolina — he totaled just 12 catches for 129 yards and two touchdowns in 17 games for the Panthers — but Byrd enjoyed a breakout season with the Cardinals in 2019, posting a 32-359-1 line in 11 games. He also can return punts and kickoffs.
Asked why he chose to sign with the Patriots, Byrd replied: “I just wanted to play good football.”
“It’s notoriously known that here, we do everything that we can to play great football,” he added. “And that’s what I wanted to do.”
No Patriots player has more familiarity with Newton than Byrd does, and as such, the wideout was peppered with questions about the former MVP quarterback.
“Obviously, I was happy (when Newton signed),” Byrd said. “Cam is a great player, and he’s going to bring a lot of experience to this team and to that (quarterback) room. I know that room was excited to have him, and all of those guys are working their tails off to get better every day.”
Byrd’s experience with Newton will benefit him this summer, but with just $600,000 guaranteed in his contract, he won’t be guaranteed a place on New England’s 53-man roster. He’ll battle the likes of Jakobi Meyers, Gunner Olszewski, Jeff Thomas, Will Hastings, Isaiah Zuber, Quincy Adeboyejo and Devin Ross for one of the final few spots behind Julian Edelman, N’Keal Harry and Mohamed Sanu.
Marqise Lee was expected to be part of that competition, but he opted out of the season, leaving Byrd as the lone veteran newcomer in the Patriots’ receiver room.